Risks of obesity

It’s very important to take steps to tackle obesity because, as well as causing obvious physical changes, it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions.

These include:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • coronary heart disease
  • some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
  • stroke

Obesity can also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem.

Causes of obesity

Obesity is generally caused by consuming more calories, particularly those in fatty and sugary foods, than you burn off through physical activity. The excess energy is stored by the body as fat.

Obesity is an increasingly common problem because for many people modern living involves eating excessive amounts of cheap, high-calorie food and spending a lot of time sitting down, at desks, on sofas or in cars.

There are also some underlying health conditions that can occasionally contribute to weight gain, such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), although these type of conditions don’t usually cause weight problems if they’re effectively controlled with medication.

 

Treating obesity

The best way to treat obesity is to eat a healthy, reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly.

To do this, you should:

  • eat a balanced, calorie-controlled diet as recommended by your GP or weight loss management health professional (such as a dietitian)
  • join a local weight loss group
  • take up activities such as fast walking, jogging, swimming or tennis for 150 to 300 minutes (2.5 to 5 hours) a week
  • eat slowly and avoid situations where you know you could be tempted to overeat

You may also benefit from receiving psychological support from a trained healthcare professional to help change the way you think about food and eating.

If lifestyle changes alone don’t help you lose weight, a medication called orlistat may be recommended.

If taken correctly, this medication works by reducing the amount of fat you absorb during digestion. Your GP will know whether orlistat is suitable for you.

In rare cases, weight loss surgery may be recommended.

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